My yoga teacher, Emily, says to stay in a posture until you feel something change – a shift. I often have this in mind when practicing yoga, but sometimes I forget. If I’m practicing at home I will sometimes move through poses that are challenging more quickly, because, let’s face it, it’s easier.
Today, when practicing, I had pain and discomfort when going into child’s pose – a posture that is usually full of ease and comfort for me. It’s the pose I go into when I want to feel good, not pain. When that surprising bolt of pain in my left hip occurred I noticed that my first instinct was to get out of the posture as quickly as possible and move onto something else. This isn’t right! This is supposed to make me feel good! But then Emily’s voice entered into my mind, stay in the posture until you feel something change. So, I begrudgingly eased back into the pose. I was still feeling the discomfort, but rather than labeling the sensation as good or bad, I tried to just witness and observe it. The discomfort lasted a few minutes, but I started to notice that it was slowly easing up. I waited a bit longer, and lo and behold, it went away!
This is yoga!
Often times when we feel pain or discomfort our first instinct is to avoid it and do something different. When I felt the sensation in my hip I automatically labeled it pain. We believe that pain is bad, that we shouldn’t feel it, and that it means we’re sick or broken. So naturally we avoid it. When I allowed myself to observe the sensation and let go of the emotional attachment to it, I was able to relax into and eventually it ceased. So now, when I look back at the “pain” I felt in my hip today, I look at it as my body actually asking me for something rather than something bad. And what it was asking me for was just the thing I was going to avoid – child’s pose.
Of course, pain is also (but not always!) the body’s way of telling us that something is wrong. Practicing this approach to pain is helpful in deciphering what your pain is all about. Is that pain in my back caused by tension and stress or is it something more serious that needs medical attention? Witnessing, observing and relaxing into will give us helpful information.
Approaching pain, rather than avoiding it, goes for emotional pain as well. If we try and ignore and avoid our emotional pain, we’re not giving it what it needs. By noticing and staying with it, you will be gifted with so much information as to what you need in order to heal.
When I say this is yoga, what I mean is that we are more often than not, doing this when we are on our mats. This practice of moving into discomfort in a compassionate, mindful and kind way will eventually make it’s way to our lives off of the mat.
If I would have ignored that left hip throughout my practice, I would have gotten off my mat and most likely would have continued to have that uncomfortable sensation throughout the day. Rather, I gave my hip what it wanted, despite some initial discomfort, and it let me move on with my day with more ease and comfort within my body.